The Air Conditioning Contractors of America is betting its members will get creative at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. That’s the location for the ACCA’s 39th annual convention, March 6-8.

The theme for this year’s event, “Imagination in action,” would seem like a nod towards the creative genius of Walt Disney World. But it’s also a reminder to contractors that they can put into action anything that they imagine.

To get contractors to see that point, ACCA officials have put together a number of workshops and speakers to help members put a successful business plan in place.

Keynote speakers

The title for McKain’s presentation is the same title for his latest book: “What Customers Really Want.” According to McKain, it isn’t enough for business owners to provide customers with good service and products at a good price. McKain will aim to help ACCA members see how they can provide customers with excellent service and keep them coming back to their business. 

Business strategist Stan Slap is the closing speaker for this year’s ACCA conference. Slap’s March 8 address will be all about new ideas and new strategies. While coming up with a new idea may be the easy part, Slap says that the biggest hurdle to overcome with a new strategy is getting the company employees to participate. 

Slap will tell ACCA members how they can sell their strategy to their employees.  He will also discuss the “seven deadly sins” of implementing a new business strategy and how a contractor can make that strategy fit with the current business culture.

Down to business

On March 7, these workshop sessions are scheduled for 8 a.m.: 
  •   Greg Gill from Action Air and Adams Hudson from Hudson, Ink will lead “High-Performance Marketing Makeover.” Gill and Hudson will present attendees with case studies of three contractors from different cities and how experienced skyrocketing sales. The session will give contractors a look at what these companies did and how attendees can copy their success.
  • Tab Hunter from Clockwork Home Services will present “Are You a Hostage in Your HVAC Business?” This session will explain how some contractors get so tangled up in day-to-day business issues that they have no time to work on important subjects such as revenues and profit. Hunter will give contractors five steps to working less and earning more.
  • “Advanced Energy Design Guide: Small Office and Small Retail” will be led by Don Collier from the University of Kentucky. Collier will discuss the Advanced Energy Design Guide series and how it is being used to assist designers, contractors and owners in constructing and operating buildings that use less energy. This session will focus on the design guide and its use in small office and small retail buildings.
  • Bill Meekins of American Safety Solutions will lead the session titled “Florida Focus: Lower Your Workers’ Comp Rates.” The session is presented by the ACCA of Florida and is exclusively for Florida contractors. This workshop will offer safety techniques and steps that contractors can take to reduce workers’ compensation premiums.
  •   “Building Code Changes that Affect Your Business” will focus on code bodies and standards development. Led by Jay Peters from the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials and Bob Guenther from the International Code Council, this workshop will present recent changes to codes that will affect mechanical codes and future changes that are under development.
Starting at 1 p.m. these are the sessions that will be offered: 
  • Hugh Joyce from James River Air Conditioning will lead “The Price is Right: Knowing Your True Costs and Setting the Right Price.” This session will help contractors figure out what they should be charging. Attendees will be given formulas they can implement in their business to find the right pricing for their company.
  • “Home Performance Contracting: Part I” will address the issue of competing with “low-priced box sellers.” Larry Taylor from Air Rite Air Conditioning, Steve Saunders from Tempo Mechanical, Brendan Reid from the Comfort Institute and Chandler Von Schrader from the Environmental Protection Agency will explain how contractors can move toward “home-performance contracting.”
  • This approach looks at the home as an entire system as it relates to attic insulation, attic ventilation, energy consumption and more. Part two of this session will immediately follow at 2:30 p.m. The second half will show contractors how to integrate new technologies and procedures into their business and how adding these concepts will set them apart from the competition.
  • “HVAC System Cleaning: Meeting Customer Needs and Adding to Your Bottom Line” will tackle the ACCA’s system cleanliness standard. Jeff Miller from Al-Don Service will share how contractors can use the standard to keep their business profitable.
  • Past winners of the ACCA’s Award for Commercial Excellence will get together for a panel discussion called “Talk From the Top: Award-Winning Commercial Contractors.” Contractors set to speak include Tom A. Winstel from Engineering Excellence, Randy Seaman of Seaman’s Air Conditioning & Refrigeration and Josh Kahn of Kahn Mechanical Contractors. The speakers will focus on challenges in a changing construction market, new demands from customers, competition and difficulties with general contractors.
  • Danny Hall from Desert Air will lead “Indoor Pools: Designing for Proper Dehumidification.” The workshop will discuss the challenges involved with indoor pools, saunas and whirlpools. Hall will address proper selection and application of indoor pool dehumidification systems.
 At 2:30 p.m. these are some of the sessions scheduled: 
  •   “The Art of Hiring: Finding People Who are ‘The Right Fit’ for Your Company” will focus on technician shortages and what contractors can do. Ray Isaac of Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning will share his experience with hiring employees and why contractors should focus on people rather than skills.
  • Profitable Web sites are the focus of “Extreme Web site Makeover: Better Web sites Get More Sales.” Led by Brian Kraff of Market Hardware, this workshop will deal with effective Internet marketing and why it is so important for creating new customers.
  • “Green” building is the topic of “LEED the Way: How Commercial Contractors Can Benefit from the LEED Process.” Ellis Guiles of Tag Mechanical Systems will review criteria for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design designation and how it applies to commercial buildings. Guiles will show contractors how LEED projects can set them apart from their competition.
  • Joe Rammuni from Arzel Zoning will explain zoning myths in “Zoning: Bandage or Enhancement?” In this session, zoning dynamics, zoning layout and proper bypass sizing will be presented to help contractors better understand zoning applications.
 These workshops will be presented at 11 a.m. March 8: 
  • Getting the best performance out of your employees is the subject of “Incentives That Work: Getting High Performance From Your Employees.” John Hall, business management editor from the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News, will moderate this session. Tom Gabrilson of Gabrilson Heating & Air Conditioning and Larry Cook of TDI Industries will share how they have successfully used incentives to get better performance from employees.
  •   “ACCA Quality Installation: Profit, Pride, Price” will be led by Larry Sambrook from the Indoor Air Quality Network. This session will explore how companies can boost market share by using the ACCA’s new quality-installation specification in their business.
  • Brooke Duncan from Adams & Reese will present “When Employees Steal: Protect Yourself Against Embezzlement.” In this workshop, attendees will learn the steps they can take to stop embezzling and the warning signs of possible fraud.
  •   “Getting More Profits From Extended Service Agreements” will aim to show contractors how they can benefit from offering customers service agreements. Jeff Evans of Equiguard will show contractors how they can make extended service agreements work in their business.
 At 2:15 p.m., these sessions will be presented: 
  •    “Train the Trainer in Training: Becoming a Better Trainer for Your Employees” will be led by Greg Goater from Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning. Goater will explain why it is important to keep employees trained and motivated. This hands-on workshop will show contractors the techniques they can implement to become a better trainer.
  •    The ACCA’s Manual N and Manual J will be discussed by Jack Bartell from Virginia Air Distributors during  “The New Manual N: Light-Commercial Load Calculation.” The presentation will give a first look at the ACCA’s new load calculations. Jim Herritage of Energy Auditors will present “ACCA Manual J Speed-Sheet: Quicker Load Calculations.” This session will address the additional features of the new Manual J-8 software and its benefits.

Products and opinions

After the workshops, attendees have the opportunity to visit the ACCA’s Indoor Air Expo. The trade show opens March 6 and will be open every day of the conference. 

At 5 p.m. March 6, a kick-off party will take place in the exhibit hall. The expo is a new-products showcase for many heating and air-conditioning suppliers. The focus of the show is mainly on products that will help contractors supply their customers with new IAQ technologies. 

There are also three forums scheduled that will give contractors the opportunity to voice their opinions. At 9:30 a.m. March 7, the CEO/Contractor Forum will take place. The forum will bring together the heads of some of the major HVACR manufacturers. Attendees will get a chance to ask questions. 

At 4 p.m. March 7, the ACCA will present “I’ve Got a Big Idea.” This session allows attendees to brag about their successes. Business owners submit their ideas, discuss them, and the audience will vote on the one they believe is the best. The owner with the best “big idea” will win $1,000. 

The ACCA’s town hall meeting will be held at 12:45 p.m. March 8. The meeting will allow ACCA members to give suggestions for the organization’s future agenda, discuss important issues in the HVACR industry, as well as other business issues. 

For more information on the ACCA’s annual conference, For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or